Chief Nurse says coronavirus cases 'really low' but restrictions remain
Wirral University Teaching Hospital's Chief Nurse is asking the public to bear with hospital restrictions, after revealing that the current number of coronavirus inpatients is 'extremely low'.
In an exclusive interview with the Globe, Hazel Richards highly praised the co-operation of Wirral residents throughout the pandemic and shared the gratitude of her colleagues, who have been boosted by gifts and well-wishes from people across the borough.
But the former Director of Nursing insisted that the relaxing of lockdown restrictions can not yet apply to Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge Hospitals, with the health of patients, staff and the wider population an absolute priority.
She said: “We absolutely appreciate how difficult it is to not have the same sort of access and visiting that we previously enjoyed, because of Covid and the risks.
“One of the things we’ve been really clear about with the site restrictions is that as lockdown eases out there, we need to be really strict internally so that we can prevent any infection coming in. It’s about keeping our staff and the public as safe as we can.
“We review it regularly as an executive team and as a board because we need to ensure that we are being proportionate and fair and consider how things are in the local population.
At the time of publication, there have been 238 patients who have died with coronavirus in Wirral NHS hospitals, but the rate of occurrences has reduced significantly over the past month.
Although she was not able to share an exact figure, Hazel Richards confirmed that the slow-down in deaths was reflected by a much lower number of cases currently in the hospital.
She said: “All I can say is that they are really really low. They are considerably lower than what they were. It’s a really low number.
“We have gone through a period of not having any deaths from Covid. The only lag that we get is at weekends, which is known nationally. But the figures that are being reported are absolutely the correct figures. We have vigorous processes in around that.
“Our inpatient numbers have been low for a number of weeks now."
The Chief Nurse was optimistic that Wirral and the wider country is now through the worst of the pandemic but must remain on-guard to prevent a major relapse.
Crucially, the hospital will be prepared for any eventuality.
She said: “Clearly we’re coming out of the other side, but nationally we’re likely to have surges in the future. How soon those surges will come, I haven’t got a crystal ball.
“With the easing of lockdown, I guess some of it will come down to how well people maintain social distancing and hygiene practices that we now all know and love.
“That’s why its important that we are the guardians of that in the hospital, in terms of social distancing and wearing of masks. That is making a big difference in hospitals.
“It’s changed for the next couple of years how we run the hospital. Who would have thought it a year ago that we would have no seats in our café and stickers all over the floor saying respect social distancing? We didn’t even know what that was this time last year.
“People need to have a degree of normality. It’s important for the economy. The government have clearly weighed up the evidence and taken a view on how safe it is.
“But importantly they have said that if we have a spike like Leicester did then they will go back into lockdown again. The flexibility is there to react to any surges and certainly in the hospital we have our plans as well."
Morale of staff in the hospital is described as good, particularly thanks to a Staff Support Team that was set up in March to help support employees through the health crisis.
The team has been able to assist patients by arranging Facetime calls on iPads - some of which were donated by businesses - but also making sure letters of appreciation from families have reached the staff on the wards.
“Largely the population of Wirral have been fantastic in their support. Some of the letters I get from people through the Family Support Team literally bring tears to my eyes," said Hazel Richards.
She added: “It’s lovely that people take the time to put pen to paper to say thank you, particularly when some will have lost a loved one.
“When people write in, the ward staff absolutely appreciate it so much. It’s unbelievable really.
“They say they’re just doing their job, but it’s been in exceptional circumstances.
"The hard bit’s been when you go home, it’s not like you just switch off from it. That’s all you eat, sleep and breath and it's been like that for the last couple of months.
“They’ve coped remarkably well with that.”